NASA will pay a staggering $146 million for each SLS rocket engine


Lorenzo von Matterhorn
Jan 31, 2009
Reaction score
Good thing we "saved money" by using shuttle engines...

NASA will pay a staggering $146 million for each SLS rocket engine
The rocket needs four engines, and it is expendable.
1 May 2020

Pigs get fat. Hogs get slaughtered. So how come no one has taken the Space Launch System rocket behind the woodshed yet?

We'll answer that question in a moment. First, some news: on Friday, the space agency announced that it had awarded a contract to Aerojet Rocketdyne to build 18 additional space shuttle main engines for the Space Launch System rocket. The contract is valued at $1.79 billion—so $100 million per engine.

However, this is not the true price of these engines. NASA has previously given more than $1 billion to Aerojet to "restart" production of the space shuttle-era engines and a contract for six new ones. So, according to the space agency, NASA has spent $3.5 billion for a total of 24 rocket engines. That comes to $146 million per engine. (Or 780,000 bars of Gold-Pressed Latinum, as this is a deal only the Ferengi could love.)

The NASA news release says that Aerojet has "implemented a plan to reduce the cost of the engines by as much as 30 percent," noting the use of more advanced manufacturing techniques. These "savings," however, are difficult to square with reality.


Just to summarize that for you: NASA is spending at least three times more for an engine that was previously built for reuse, but now is expendable. And in the news release, Aerojet brags about reducing the price of these engines.

There are a lot of things one could buy in the aerospace industry for $146 million. One might, for example, buy at least six RD-180 engines from Russia. These engines have more than twice the thrust of a space shuttle main engine. Or, one might go to United Launch Alliance's Rocket Builder website and purchase two basic Atlas V rocket launches. You could buy three "flight-proven" Falcon 9 launches. One might even buy a Falcon Heavy launch, which has two-thirds the lift capacity of the Space Launch System at one-twentieth the price, and you'd still have enough money left over to buy several hundred actual Ferrari sports cars.